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The Noob’s Guide to Cycling Fashion: The Rules; Follow Them, Ignore Them or Find Something In Between. And Why They Aren’t All that Bad.

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In cycling, following the fashionable rules as published by Velominati can be pretty damned expensive, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.  When I started out cycling, I didn’t have much in the way of money, but I did the best I could with what I had.  Today income has improved so it’s a little easier to worry about having the proper length sock, about they type of frame mounted air pump I use, where my spare tube and tire levers should be stored, how I sit on my bike while I’m waiting for a start…  The list goes on for a long, long time.

One thing is for certain with all of the rules:  Make sure you can ride your bike well before worrying about any of the fashion rules.  Bike handling is far and away the most important thing to concentrate on.

First things first, for guys is the shaving of the legs.  Believe it or not, this is only done by the hardcore enthusiasts and those who race.  Yes, I do, but you won’t necessarily have to.  It depends on your region and the group you ride with.  If you’re only going to ride solo, don’t even worry about it.  That one caught me up and I’ve been paying for it ever since.  See, I read on the internet that all guys who are worth a shit on a bike, shave their legs.  Come to find out, after I followed suit of course, that this varies by region and in our neck of the woods the practice isn’t adhered to.  Of course, that said, I’m glad I do and you’ll see why in a bit…

The majority of the rules, except those like #5 (HTFU – or Harden The F— Up), are simple guides and suggestions for how to look good as a cyclist.  For instance, one (or two) of the rules deal strictly with sock length.  Not too long, not too short but never the little ankle socks.  Now, does it truly matter if one chooses to wear ankle socks?  Will it matter a lick to how one rides a bike?  Of course not.  How about the helmet, should one take care to choose the best color and fit?  Well that shouldn’t matter at all!  How about wearing pro team kits or national champion kits when you are neither a pro or a national champion?  Hey, it’s (hopefully) a free country!  What does it matter if everyone sees at you as a poseur (they do, by the way, no matter how good you ride a bike – a buddy of mine had his wheel taco’d by the German National Champion in a local century ride because he was too tired to stop his bike in the parking lot at a rest stop – He was a horse and he did some honorable stints at the front of the group but we still laugh about that to this day, getting taken out of a silly century ride by the German National Champion…)?

How about wearing a shirt, or tennis shoes with platform pedals?  Well, now we’re getting somewhere.  Tennis shoes on platform pedals destroy efficiency on a road bike.  You’d be better off saving that for a mountain bike.  While riding with a group can be done with that get-up (I tried it when I forgot my shoes one day – it’s not impossible to keep up, but close to it), the no-shirt part of the deal is just about unforgivable.  Don’t worry, I’ve done that too when I didn’t know my butt from a hole in the ground.

The point to all of this is simple.  This looks horrendous – no shirt, tennis shoes, shorts…  It’s all wrong, an affront to “the rules”:
Olympic Triathlon_07092011-5
This is, at least, getting better:
IMG_2629
Still better:

Of course, smiling wouldn’t hurt either…

Now, here’s where I finally really got the rules right:
20140713_160830
And finally, today, fully kitted up proper:
IMG_7538

As you can see, in all of those photos, the bike is not the focal point – in any of them.  Yet from day one to four years later, I went from complete dufus, to a decent looking cyclist.  The problem was, of course, I made a lot of mistakes along the way.  No jersey (tennis shoes, ultra large dome protector [first photo]), baggy jersey (second photo), poorly chosen color scheme on the bike (third photo)…  It didn’t have to be that way, if I’d have paid attention to some of the rules.

The big difference between year one and today is that I follow most of the rules.  I don’t belong any more on a bike today than I did back then, but by going through all of my trials and errors and finally settling on following the rules, I can look at that first photo and laugh, the second photo and shrug, the third photo and say, “Meh” and finally at the end, I’m finally happy with how I look as a cyclist.  This isn’t to say I’m right, the rules are right and must be followed…

All I will commit too is that it can’t be argued…  I’m pretty funny lookin’ in that first photo, and I got it right in the last one.  Do what suits you.  If, however, you have a desire to approach cycling like one would golf, following some of the rules is a good place to start.  Finally, I use the rules as a guide, not as a bludgeon (I could care less how someone else looks on their bike as long as they ride it well and don’t crash me… and I look good).  Dressing as I did in those last two photos is not cheap (actually, it’s really freaking expensive), do your best within your means and let the rest wash out on the road.

Oh, by the way, for mountain biking there pretty much aren’t any rules.

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30 Comments

  1. Sue Slaght says:

    I love the transformation photos. I can assure you I have never gone shirtless. 🙂

    • bgddyjim says:

      I can’t believe I missed remarking on this comment yesterday… I must have been REALLY busy. Where’s your sense of adventure Sue, you live in Canada – I thought that was okay up there now.

      Wait, check that, I don’t want my wife riding around shirtless either. Yeah, scratch that initial thought.

  2. Can we all take a vote on the dufus comment? heh heh heh

  3. Tennis shoes are not acceptable on a mountain bike either, by the way. Knee and elbow pads as well as shin guards, are becoming standard garb also. Those without a helmet are mocked mercilessly. Good thing about a mountain bike is that one can wear pretty much what one wants, including tutus and speedos.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Brother tutus and speedos, hell ESPECIALLY speedos, are never okay. I’m too old to need shin guards and elbow pads – if it’s that dangerous, I need to be doing something else. Tennis shoes, I’d argue. I’d never wear them, but all of those guys doing the crazy tricks on the mountain bikes (and even some on road bikes) wear sneakers.

  4. haha great post my favorite still is seeing some one who is kitted out and riding platform pedals, i would also add don’t wear underwear with your shorts or bibs, i made that mistake the first few weeks till i was told not too. I’m all bout looking good when riding i my not be the fastest but i look the best!

  5. Daniel Weise says:

    Ah Jim, I have to disagree on the rules. I hate them! I find the only rules to follow are to be safe and have fun. Period. 🙂 Of course I have never aspired to be even close to your level of cyclist. I’m for the enjoyment and the exercise. Hat’s off to you for following what you believe in. I guess I’m just a bit more rebellious when it comes to rules.

    I don’t care how some one looks as long as they get out there and ride!

    • bgddyjim says:

      Daniel, I’ll quote myself: “I’m pretty funny lookin’ in that first photo, and I got it right in the last one. Do what suits you. If, however, you have a desire to approach cycling like one would golf, following some of the rules is a good place to start. Finally, I use the rules as a guide, not as a bludgeon (I could care less how someone else looks on their bike as long as they ride it well and don’t crash me”… So you and I are actually in complete agreeance, no?

      • Daniel Weise says:

        You are right – we agree that people can look however they want on the bike as long as they are safe and not a danger to those around them.

        I do understand what some of the rules are designed to do. I’m just not that type of cyclist nor do I aspire to be. I’m pretty much a solo rider with the exception of an organized ride here or there and then I’m at the back of the pack.

      • bgddyjim says:

        I know, brother. If you’re happy on your bike, that’s all that matters (I think I said that too). Again, I’m not saying that my way is right – all I’m trying to do is help others avoid the costly mistakes that I made if they have a desire to be the type of cyclist that I am. I appreciate you’re adding your experience to the post though. It’s all good, man.

      • MJ Ray says:

        Never turn cycling into golf. Reject all who try. In the words of Olympic champion Chris Boardman…

        http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2015/jan/16/is-it-ok-to-get-off-your-bike-and-walk-up-hill wrote:
        We should celebrate [cycling’s] ‘everyman’ appeal, not slide to the worst of golfing ‘etiquette’ where newer and less able players are excluded or mocked behind their back in the clubhouse bar for ‘having the wrong swing’ or ‘wearing the wrong gear’.

        Oh and “made do” not “made due” and I think you looked better in the pic where you’re smiling most, not based on what you’re wearing.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Man, you’re cranky this morning. I fixed it, but I won’t use “make do” because that’s a stupid phrase… Then, and I can understand because “make due” must have distracted you, you agreed with everything I wrote, negatively.

        And to the smiles… Technically, you should know the context of the smiles.

        The first photo, where we celebrate my goofiness, was my longest ride to that date… That’s a “holy crap, I did it” smile. The next biggest smile, the last photo, was before a 100 mile ride (technically 168 km) that I knew was going to be hard but I was quite confident I’d finish, the only question was “would I be dropped by my friends”… The second photo was on my birthday, so it made sense, when my daughters jumped into the photo, that I was beaming. The third photo, now that’s a tricky one. That was just before my first ever trip down a mountain road – one of those single-lane deals, 20-25%… I was nervous about going down and triple nervous about trying to get back up.

        If we want to base it on the emotional, I’d take the last photo, where I physically look the best, any day of the week and twice on Sunday. That was the one I was happiest in, for a number of reasons.

        Finally, and you should re-read the post because you missed all of the subtlety, I also believe in the Everyman nature of cycling. I just want to look good whilst I do it. This post is for Noobs who also want to look good while learning the sport.

        In fact, if you want the Cliff’s Notes version, scroll up a couple of comments to Daniel Weiss’s string. I quoted myself. It was awesome, if I do say so myself.

  6. EpicGran says:

    Oh let me tell you that sock length matters just as much on a mountain bike. LOL.

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